This was one of the surprises of the year. Even though I have had the Parasol Protectorate series on my TBR for a while, I never really looked into them and what they were about. All I knew was that they were classified as steampunk, a genre I love.
Miss Alexia Tarabotti is a special woman, in several ways. She is a spinster in her twenties, deemed unmarriageable because of her mysterious Italian father, her interest in science and other unladylike topics, and her slightly sarcastic wit. On top of that, she is a preternatural. Miss Tarabotti is not in possession of a soul. When she is most rudely attacked by a vampire, she is sucked into quite dangerous business, dealing with even more dangerous yet very attractive werewolves...
I absolutely ADORE the world Ms Carriger has created. Not only is the story of Soulless set in Victorian society, even the supernaturals are affected by the setting. Being a werewolf is no excuse for dressing poorly, and you better have good table manners as a vampire. It makes for such bizarre situations, it is utterly brilliant. I actually snickered while reading this book. Maybe I am even guilty of outright giggling.
Another massive plus is that at no point in the story the romance felt icky. Usually, when the heroine and hero are getting the hots for each other, I am not quite there with them yet. In Soulless I had no such issue. From all the adult romance storylines I have come across, this was one I was most comfortable with. It all felt so natural, the bickering, the little bits and pieces of tenderness. It all came together in such a way that I was fully invested in the scene, which is accomplished very rarely by books I read.
Alexia was an interesting character to read about. Even though she might not technically has a soul, she has enough brains to make up for it. She is a pleasant conversationalist with a healthy self-image and enough thinking capacity. She is nothing like her shallow half-sisters, constantly fussing about who wears what, and what they will wear to that party. What I liked was that even though Alexia in spirit resembles a modern woman, she still has some very distinct Victorian values. It was a great little touch, adding a lot of credibility to the story. You can really feel Ms Carriger has thought every detail through.
Soulless is a highly original book that I would certainly recommend to all lovers of steampunk, the paranormal, or historical romance. From the first page the dreamlike prose draws you in, and won't let you go until you have finished the story. I cannot wait to read the next installment, and find out what is in store next for this soulless heroine.